Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Pictures post-cleaning crew...

The cleanup crew made its first major effort on the house.  This is a good sign, as it means we are really close to closing.  Still, there are items to be completed, but the nice thing is that we can get some photos of the house before furniture flies in.  Here they are (we also went over 1000 pictures of Leaning Oak, a fraction of which have been posted):

The kitchen is the most interesting at this point, since it is now complete with its appliances and looks how we will live,
minus our stuff on the counters.  We will get a photo or dozen after move-in, too.

The French doors to the Conservatory have
been revealed!  The protective plastic and
paint removed and cleaned.  This is from the
foyer side of the Conservatory.

The doors open to the Conservatory and
my office area.  I look forward to adding the
guitars, piano, and sitting area.

Always a favorite shot of mine, looking
into the Great Room and our mini-forest.

Another perspective of the Great Room's window mosaic,
taken from the hallway leading to the master suite area. 
Combining the kitchen and Great Room, with a little artistic enhancement, all central living areas come into view.  We
look forward to many good times here with family and friends.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Catching up after Christmas

Right now, as I write today's entry, I am sitting in the Conservatory of Leaning Oak, at my new writing desk, in my new office chair.  No, we are not moved in.  I had expected to be moved in when the desk and chair arrived, but who delivers two weeks early during the holidays?  Anyway, I am glad they did, as it gives me a "first glimpse" of what life in our new home will look and feel like.

Many things have happened since my last post.  The painters did a complete final paint, although they will return for some touch-up work as the last step.  Our natural gas service finally got installed and is fully functional.  This is helpful today, since it is 39F (4C) outside, and I am toasty warm inside.  Our shutters got installed, and they really look great.  Our appliances arrived, and all but the ranges are installed at this point.  We expect this to be remedied any day now.  We have internet service and DirecTV!  We are using Exede for internet, which owns the Viasat-1 satellite, in the Guinness Book of Records for the highest data throughput of any commercial satellite.  During the day, I get 22 Mbps (red zone on Speedtest), and in the evening, I get about half of that.  Both are plenty fast enough for any kind of streaming or video conferencing.

I worked with my landscape architect to develop and execute a drainage strategy.  We decided not to go with a gutter system, as our complex roof lines (owing mostly to the bay windows) made for complicated gutter routing.  As I pictured what the the gutter installers were suggesting, suddenly our beautiful home would gain the appearance of a gas factory.  No gutters, instead, we will manage the water once it hits the ground and drain it away from the house.

We have given up on an asphalt driveway.  The weather has made the base too wet, and it could be literally months before we could get it done.  The construction company has issued credits, and I am contracting a concrete tradesman for the work.  One of our "family activities" this past week-end was to "stake and string" the driveway so the concrete team can run forms as soon as possible.  A good time had by all.

There are a few things left to be completed, and some of them quite major.  Among the major elements are: getting the air-conditioning for the wine grotto installed, completing the cabinetry in the wine grotto, installing the back veneers in the Conservatory shelves, installing Pam's double vanity mirror, and completing the installation of the ranges.  All of these need to happen this week for us to sign the affidavit of completion (and secure a significant homestead exemption for 2015).  There will be additional warranty work to be done in the week or so following the affidavit, but the aforementioned items are potential showstoppers.

Well, how about some pictures?  Here are some taken since "Nightime":

My writing desk from the "Adagio" collection of Hooker Furniture.  It is the one I have always wanted.

Paint and staining complete in the Great Room (and the house).  The floors
have not yet been cleaned, but it is nice to see all the colors come together.

The kitchen still lacks the Thermador range, but the backsplash is completed
and the protective covering of the granite is removed.

Starting from the stake and going to the road, our natural gas service is
finally installed, and none too late for this cold Houston day.  If you go
back to the Great Room picture, you will see our fireplace in action.

The shutters as installed in the master bedroom...

...and in the Conservatory.

This is a "drawer" microwave oven.  Pushing a panel button causes the drawer
to come out (the oven face comes out toward you) and you place your items
from above, not the side.

This is our 48-inch (1.2m) side-by-side freezer and refrigerator.

Signs of our new times, two satellite dishes,
the one on the left for Exede's high-speed
satellite internet, and the one on the right
for DirecTV, both on the back side of the
house over the utility room.

This is the A/V closet, now with internet
and coaxial cables merging into the same
panel.  The wireless router delivers high-
quality signal to all the outside living areas
of the main house.  The casita will get its
own wireless router.

The drainage system is working, as we just had a day of rain, and this would
have looked like a lake without the system.  It will be refined and improved
in the landscaping phase, but our efforts are fruitful even now.

Stakes and strings for the driveway, as we try to protect the tree at the right.
Our driveway is 12 feet  (3.66m) wide, and I want to be 10 feet (3m) offset from
the tree, for the sake of its health and survival.

Stakes and strings get a little more challenging as we had to define the
curves for porte couchere and the driveway as it curves around the two-car
garage, keeping a consistent 10-feet (3m) radius, while making sure
everything remains aligned.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Nightime (sic)

"Nightime" is the name of a song written by the late Alex Chilton (misspelling of 'nighttime' is typical Alex) when he was with Big Star and released on their "3rd" album.  It has been covered by many, most notably the late Elliott Smith.  

Last night, I was visiting with the last of my gutter estimators for the day, and afternoon was passing to dusk, passing to evening.  We have between 550 and 600 feet of guttering to install (168 and 183 meters) with many wicked corners and valleys.  It is not an easy house to make a gutter plan and subsequently price it.  As I was waiting, I took a few pictures, enjoying the beauty of the darkening dusk.

Here they are, Leaning Oak at "Nightime" (and the link so you can listen to the beautiful song which inspired the title of the blog -- Nightime):

This is a silhouette of the tree around
which our driveway will curve. 

The entrance to the main house, now
adorned with its hanging light.

This is from the front of the house, looking WSW, and is the grove of trees we see from our front windows.  This small
grove is host to six varieties of trees, three of them being oaks.

"Nightime" at Leaning Oak.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The granite has landed.

The granite is finally installed both the main house and casita.  The granite installation paves the way for backsplash and plumber fixtures installations.  Yes, we are getting close to the end and the beginning.  The end of construction, the beginning of living in a home about which we have conceptually dreamed all our lives together.  Still, much has to happen before we get to the end (in addition to backsplash and plumbing fixtures): mirrors, paint (both touch-up and repaint of the casita), air-conditioning needs to be installed, flatwork areas are still too wet for asphalt or concrete (I hope a couple of more sunny days takes care of that), and landscaping.

We did have a SNAFU (Situation Normal: All Fouled Up) this weekend.  We discovered the countertop in the wine grotto had not been accounted in neither the cabinets order nor the granite order.  That will get resolved today (I hope).  I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to take painstaking time to reconcile the selection sheets and the drawings -- make notes everywhere and initial, and make them initial the same.  We have run into more than one issue where the ball was dropped in communications between the selection and sign-off stages.  Even issues brought up during sign-off, because they were not properly documented (and it has been a year since that event), resulted in us negotiating our position.  Sometimes we won, other times we lost, and sometimes we broke even.  Lesson learned.

Here are pictures from the landing of the granite:

This is a "French Fireback" installed above the range and stove.

This photo is in the casita, bringing together the colors of the floor, trim,
cabinets, and granite.  A different granite is used in the main house.

The kitchen sink of the casita wrapped in plastic for protection.

The vanity sinks await the drilling of holes for the plumbing fixtures.

This is Pam's area in the MBR suite, with vanity and make-up table areas.

This is one of the guest bathrooms.  The guest bathrooms have the lighter
cabinets.  The light countertops are Marlana, an engineered marble product.

The kitchen sink area of the main house with its granite, and waiting on a
dishwasher (all appliances arrive this week!).  The window is nice for
observing both the flora and fauna of our property while washing dishes.

Pam's office, immediately off the kitchen, has the same granite as does the
kitchen areas.  Another good opportunity to see the blends of color.

The kitchen island looks a bit larger in this photo, taken minutes before
three panels of granite were laid upon it.

The granite team works to level the three pieces of granite by judiciously
adding shims in just the right places.  It is not as easy as it sounds.  One
also gets a better sense of scale concerning the island's size.

Some kitchens have an island, our kitchen has a continent.  Plenty of work
space and plenty of social space.  Barstools fit nicely under the 18 inches
of front overhang.  Good for eating, good for buffets, good for keeping the
chef company while he/she/both work.

The kitchen continent in context of the kitchen as a whole, sweeping from the pantry on the left through to the
breakfast nook at the right.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Flora native to Leaning Oak

This is a post which will be updated a couple of more times, simply because the presentation below will be updated as we identify more of the flora on our property.  It is a rich ecosystem, and knowing what surrounds us gives a greater appreciation of our land.

The Chinese Tallow Tree is described as "an invasive" because it is not a true native of the region.  The Chinese Tallow Tree was brought to this area as an ornamental tree, but birds, doing what they do, have helped spread it to an environment in which it thrives.

Check back to this post in the days and weeks ahead to see updates, as we have more species we are trying to identify even now.

UPDATE:  I took a hike with my landscape architect through the dense woods of our property.  We found some water and white oak saplings which we will use to re-forest the front area of the property devastated by the construction process.

We made a rare find: blackjack oak.  It is a small oak,  typically attaining to only 30 feet (10m) in height.  This one was less than two feet (0.6m) in height.  We will transplant it to the front, also.

We discovered that we have a grove of yaupon holly, almost a forest unto itself.  We will harvest some of those plants and re-plant them closer to the house.